NEWT reports

A short summary of the first naked trek across the Alps, taking in 3 countries, over 5 days with a distance of approx. 100km, reaching a height of 1860m - naked for 90% of the time.

The plan was to cross Austria, hiking naked across the Inntal, from Germany to Italy, in the first week of July 2005, naked. The general rule of wearing shorts in population centres, (to reduce risk of unwanted attention), was modified en-route to dress when on tarmac, the 2 definitions being largely correspondent, but the latter was easier to confirm. Each days walking was approximately 20k. Although I had announced this walk previously ( com/group/naked-europe) and there were several people interested in coming along, in the event, I did the entire walk solo. I suspect the nature of the mountainous terrain, and the mixed weather, were the major reasons which kept most people away. Walking naked through the wet forest, my boots trampled the soft mushy wet leaves underfoot as the light rain dripped from my hat and the sweat dropped from my arms. At times I couldn't tell, as I laboured up the steep trail, whether the liquid falling from me was sweat or rain. I trudged on and the quiet of the forest surrounded me with the slightly cool air touching me all over, the only noise being my footsteps pressing into the damp ground and the occasional group of birds chirping to one another in the dank trees around me. I was moving steadily through the woods just below Garmisch-Partenkirchen in an attempt to cross the european alps completely naked. The idea had formulated itself slowly, following some experimentation with walking naked through forests near my home in Munich, Germany. Steve Goughs epic naked walk from Lands End to John O'Groats was also an influence, and I thought that to do something similar in mainland europe might express support for Steve, encourage other people by example, and of course be heaps of fun. A brief look at the map provided a simple yet interesting route: from the south of Germany, across the thin neck of western Austria and into northern Italy.

The first day I spent walking naked and alone along wet forest trails heading south and eastfrom Garmisch. The trail took me under the enormous cliffs of the Wettersteinwand towering above the tall pine trees of the forest. At the Ferchensee I saw a farmer and his children mowing the grass with petrol strimmers, instead of scythes, and making a lot of noise, perhaps the new tradition. I criss-crossed into Austria on the ridge at the Ederkanzel at 1150m, and met my first textiles of the trip here, a couple. We exchanged pleasant, if surprised, greetings and continued on our ways. I headed towards the Porta Claudia, a wall built to assist the Tyrolean freedom movement around 1650. I was pleased to find a hollow, next to the river Isar, in which I could bivouac, with a bush over my head to keep most of the rain off of me. Waking, I shaved in the cold stream without a mirror, and headed naked through the rain towards the Austrian border. I dressed to skirt the river through the town, stripping again as soon as I entered the forest and headed east. The path gently rose as it contoured the steep slopes of the Scharnitz forest. The air was cool and gentle rain fell over my shoulders and dripped from my hat. It was a curious thing that if there was no wind, the rain falling on my naked body felt quite mild. On the occassions when I wore my rain jacket, when I went through a town for example, I invariably felt much colder. About an hour into the day, I turned a corner on the track as a small group of perhaps 12 people meandered into view. I heard "Hello there!", and the odd "Aren't you a bit cold?", as I walked past returning their various greetings with a hearty smile and a wave. I passed the wooden bridge at the Gleischklamm where the river fell steeply below me, tumbling into the main valley below, and headed south gaining height steadily. I got into a long mountain stride, as the forest track finally gave way to a twisting alpine path at the tree line, winding its way through shrubs and bushes. I was beginning to feel the altitude and effort here and my steps became shorter and less rhythmic. Several small parties passed me going downhill and I finally reached the col at 1806m, with the wind whipping at me. I slipped on my shorts, and entered the Solsteinhaus for a welcome hot vegetable soup. As I set off towards the Neuemagdeburgehutte, I stripped again and soon afterwards came to the top of a steep rocky gully, a klettersteig. I was really unprepared for this, because although the gully was not technically difficult, I was already tired after the days walking and was feeling the weight of my rucksack pulling me backwards. The last thing I needed was to negotiate 100m of slippery steep rock, without protection and naked, so I pulled on my shorts for some moral support. I set off gingerly, sometimes hanging on to the wet plastic coated wire with one hand, and trying to find a good handhold for the other. Facing the rock, I descended slowly and cautiously down the gully. The mist swirled about, and the rain threatened to come and go, as I tried to avoid making any silly mistake on my descent - I would only make one. This was soon behind me, but it had been a shock to find such a steep section on this track. I stripped naked again and after another couple of easier klettersteig sections, I emerged onto the pleasant grassy col at the Neuemagdeburghutte, and made my way laboriously, after a false start, along an easy but steep track down through the forest, past a group of isolated and apparently inaccessible huts used as weekend retreats. My feet were like putty as I negotiated the last stretch of narrow gorge next to the river into the village of Zirl. I dressed now and the first person I saw was a woman cutting her hedge. I must have looked a bit of a sight, because she immediately fetched her husband to drive me to the Liga-Voelsnudist campsite, my destination. The relief was enormous at not having to walk further, and that simple act of charity came with perfect timing.

The next day dawned sunny, and clear, but my feet were so sore and I was so tired, that I thought it a good idea to take a rest day. The Liga-Voelscampsite is a private club in an enclosure on the outskirts of Voels, near Innsbruck. It has a very family atmosphere, with many local people making up the active membership, and the stupendous view of the mountains rearing up behind the trees in the campsite is simply worth the visit. It was the ideal place to take a rest day, and I was made to feel very welcome.

Waking, I set off early and took a bus to the Bergisel in Innsbruck, where the olympic ski jump stands. From here the river wends its way south towards the Brenner. The weather was fair, and I stripped off quickly to follow the winding river path naked, through the trees. After a short tarmac section and a pleasant midday rest, I walked up the wide track of the forested ridge towards Schoenberg. This was perhaps the nicest piece of walking of the whole day. The sun came meandered between the clouds and trees, and the air simply glided over my entirely naked skin. The sun shone down between the trees and the shadows described the steep and green wooded slopes in the way of caressing fingers. I heard barking behind me and soon a young woman and dog appeared around the corner of the path. Because the dog was obviously quite excited, I decided to sit down and let them pass. The woman apologised for the young dog, who was clearly upset to see someone on what it thought was its own territory. The dog sat down and barked constantly and no matter what the woman did, it would not move. She tried calling and cajoling, all to no avail. Finally she ran off up the track and the dog, desperate now that its owner had disappeared from sight, jumped up and leapt past me, only to sit down again and continue barking. The woman gave up and came back past me with yet more apologies taking the still barking dog with her. Soon the path opened out into a field, the view from here in the bright blue sunshine, across to the alps, was simply stupendous. Having circled the small town of Schoenberg, I followed a track which ran parallel to the Brenner motorway. In the forest shade I made good time along the mostly flat paths although I got a bit dehydrated on this stretch as I'd been counting on finding water on the slopes of the forest, but all the streams appeared to have dried up. Eventually, I reached Matrei, and went to a gasthof in Elbogen who took me in, just as the heavens opened and the most torrential rain simply dropped from the now black skies, accompanied by loud cracks of thunder and lightening.

After breakfast, I walked up the streets in the rain. At Tienzens, I gained a farm track and stripped off quickly, so that I was now walking naked through the cool drizzle again. It was cold, because there was a slight breeze, but managable if I kept my walking pace up. The tracks were excellent, with wide views across the Wiptal, as the paths countoured around the gentle slopes. I worked my way steadily south, through the several forests, past Steinach, then Stafflach, dressing briefly for each village, and finally arrived in Gries, as the rain settled in for the afternoon. I had made good progress, and was not far from the Brenner pass itself, so I stopped for a break before continuing. Naked, I headed up the hill towards the Sattelberg, this time the path crossed over a stream multiple times, and my feet became very wet. As I gained height, the sun came out occassionally, as if to welcome me to the head of the valley. A small herd of cows were grazing on a high meadow that in the winter was clearly used as a ski run, and wandering nonchalantly between the ski-lift pylons. They didn't seem to mind the naked man striding up their alp. The Sattelbergalmhutte was an impressive place with a long view down the valley up which I had just walked, where the clouds still swirled darkly, and to the south were the Kuhberg and the Wolfsdorn mountains, covered in a mantle of freshly fallen snow, perhaps 200m above my present height.

I woke early to blue skies and leapt out of bed with enthusiasm. After a quick snack, I set off for the Italian border, my next and very close target. Although the sky was blue, at 1700m it was still cold at 0700 hrs, and my naked form shivered a bit as I approached the col along the path through the trees. I crossed a fence and descended into Italy, across another cow filled meadow. This was my last day, and I had just ticked off my second and last border crossing, things were going well and I felt good. Descending along the steep forest track, I met 2 groups of early walkers who were very friendly. Here I had my only encounter with a group who seemed to think I was really crazy. Maybe them being in a car made the difference. I had to lose 400m of height to cross the Brenner motorway, before I could start the steep ascent on the other side to the Leugealmhutte. At the hut, I met a friendly farmer, who engaged me in conversation about where his cows might be in the trees. The track now contoured, with a stone wall on the one side, steadily around the high alpine slopes. The temperature was perfect for walking, as there was now some high cloud to take the bite out of the sun, and no wind. In contrast to the forest walking, I could now look easily over the tops of the trees, to the alps across the valley, as they rose out of their deep, dark green and bristly, forest base. Arriving at the Enzianhutte, at 1894m my high point, I sat down to gaze at the view. Behind the hut rose a great ridge of rock and snow, the Daxberg. I made my way along the mostly contouring path through the trees. I turned a corner on the track and came across a field of Azaleas in the woods, the pulpy dark green leaves making a perfect background to the soft pink and purple flowers in the dappled sunlight. As I was crossing one wide open patch of grass, a line of people approached me and I had to stop, naked in front of them all, and step up a step, to let them past me on the narrow path. There were various friendly comments exchanged, and after 20 people had filed past, I asked how many were still to come. A woman answered: "Just a few more now..." Eventually I was able to continue and set off below a large rock ridge. An easy zig-zag path via a patch of open trees and a meadow of forget-me-nots took me through this looming obstacle and on to the Huhnerspielhutte, where I stopped and dressed for a welcome vegetable soup. I could now see Vipiteno/Sterzing far below me in the valley bottom, and the end of my walk was in sight. Stripping again, as soon as I had left the meadow surrounding the hut. I met several people on the final descent. The last was a single female jogger, who appeared to find the naked man, though unexpected, certainly harmless and perhaps faintly amusing, probably the most common reaction of all. Warm slabs of air wafted through the trees, and the crickets sawing in the woods now seemed to outnumber the chirping of the birds, confirming for me I was in the south Tyrol. Finally I reached Vipiteno where I met my wife who had come to meet me at the end of my slightly epic walk. The weather may not have been perfect for the whole trip, but neither had it been too bad to withstand, even naked at a height of 1894m. Of the 120 km I had walked, over 100 km had been naked. It had been a novel adventure and a personal achievement. This is the modern nudism in the 21st century, no more are we bound to explore this physical expression in isolated camps and secret places, nudism has legs, and every citizen, of whatever age, shade, size or shape, is free to take part. To save me the walk home, my wife came and picked me up in Vipiteno, and it's nice to be able to rest my feet, (and keep my shorts up for a while ;-) Rich.